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Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.
~Kurt Vonnegut
Monday, March 26, 2007

What About COBRA?

Someone asked a good question. It would have been one of the first questions I would have asked someone faced with a situation similar to mine. What about COBRA?

I'm eligible for COBRA, yes. At the moment I am taking FMLA. No pay, but I had 8 weeks of vacation saved up, so 8 of the 12 FMLA weeks will be like regular pay with normal deductions taken out to cover my benefits, with my workplace continuing to pay their share. For the final 4 weeks (with vacation coverage exhausted), I will have to pay my portion of the benefits and my workplace will pay their portion. After FMLA is exhausted, which for me will be May 19th, I become eligible for COBRA.

COBRA allows a single person to continue their coverage for up to 18 months (longer for families) after a qualifying event. COBRA does not require the (former) employer to pay their portion any longer, and in fact, allows that the employer may charge the ex-employee 2% on top of the total cost of benefits for administrative fees.

For the lowest cost plan at my workplace, which I changed to when I had to move out of the managed care area, the cost would be 368.68 a month + 2 %. $376.05. The plan, quite frankly, sucks. I have to meet a $500 deductible before any benefits are paid.

How does a person who no longer has an income pay $376.05 a month for insurance coverage? Apparently only one in five people eligible for COBRA (.pdf) take advantage of it. I have to guess that the one in five are CEOs who just received a huge severence package. CEO I'm not. Severence package? Nope. It is however, possible that I will be eligible for unemployment because it was clear (and documented) that I was able to continue working via telecommuting. It was departmental policy that prevented me from continuing, not performance. Regardless, umemployment, if I can get it, will be used for necessities, of which I can no longer consider insurance to be.
Contract work is also a possibility.

I have to take into account that hiring care for my mom when I'm away costs $12.50 an hour. Imagine what a 3 hour visit to the dentist actually costs now! I'm doing it though because I intend to use every penny of my dental coverage while I still have it! I'm also hedging bets that I will stay healthy. It's a gamble, but $4500+ a year for insurance coverage is simply more than an unemployed person can pay.

Two timely and related articles, Universal Care: Getting The Right Mix and Aged, Frail and Denied Care by Their Insurers make me happy we opted not to pay for long-term care insurance and give me some hope that soon, our system may work better.
posted by Cyndy | link | | |


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